MONTREAL – It took a quick run of victories to get the Montreal Canadiens out of their early season funk.
The Canadiens got first-period goals from Brian Gionta and Lars Eller and Carey Price made 26 saves as they completed a back-to-back sweep of the struggling Boston Bruins with a 4-2 victory Saturday night.
Montreal (4-5-2) was last in the NHL Eastern Conference after a loss on Monday to Florida, but then won three times in a four-day span, including their 2-1 win in Boston on Thursday night.
”I think our guys are pretty confident again,” said Price, now 15-4-1 in his career in regular season games against Boston. ”That’s all it took was a couple of wins.
”Now the guys are all excited to go to the rink again. When you’re losing it’s not fun. Everything is gloom and doom. Winning solves everything.”
The Canadiens now get to enjoy two days off before they resume practising for their next game Friday night in Ottawa.
”It’s nice to have time with our families,” said Gionta. ”We had four games in six nights so it’s a nice break.”
The loss was a third in a row for the Stanley Cup champion Bruins (3-7-0), who are last in the East.
”Sometimes you have to have luck on your side and it seems like we don’t have it right now,” said Boston captain Zedno Chara. ”But we can’t get frustrated.
”We have to keep trying. It was a close game until the end. All we can do is get ready for the next one.”
It was an emotional night for both sides, with the Bruins visiting for the first time since their narrow seven-game win over Montreal in the opening round of the playoffs last spring.
It was also the first time since Chara faced Max Pacioretty in Montreal since the nasty incident in a game March 8 when he shoved the Montreal winger into a stanchion, ending his season with a fractured vertebrae and a concussion.
The two settled their differences verbally in the off-season and Pacioretty’s wounds healed. While they came together frequently during play, there were no incidents. Montreal police, still pondering whether to file charges, left the towering defenceman alone.
Only the Bell Centre crowd let Chara know how they felt by booing him every time he touched the puck.
The Bruins hit a pair of goalposts in a fast-paced first period, but when the Canadiens went up 2-0, the frustration was evident as they were goaded into a string a minor penalties that deepened their troubles.
But Boston made it close.
The Canadiens led 3-1 when P.K. Subban iced the puck. Boston pulled goaltender Tuukka Rask for an extra attacker and Tyler Seguin jumped on a loose puck and beat Price with 55 seconds left to play.
Patrice Bergeron whiffed on a pass across the crease that might have tied the game, but Tomas Plekanec ended the Boston threat with en empty-net goal with 12 seconds remaining.
The Canadiens players were glad to be winning again after starting the season 1-5-2, but coach Jacques Martin was in a grumpy mood.
”There’s a lot we need to improve,” he said. ”It’s a long season and we’re still below .500.
”It’s a battle every night. Now we have a chance to do some work this week and get back to competition on Friday.”
The Canadiens have won their last five regular-season meetings with Boston at the Bell Centre since last season.
”We need to draw on the positives,” added Gionta. ”When we’re supporting and we’re skating, we’re a good team.
”You’re able to establish the neutral zone, you’re able to establish a forecheck and get turnovers and have some sustained pressure. When we’re doing that, we’re at our best.”
The action was end-to-end to start and Bruins Rich Peverley and Brad Marchand hit goalposts before Plekanec, used once again on the point on the power play, had his long blast through traffic deflected in by Gionta at 15:26.
Only 1:16 later, Travis Moen batted a puck out of the air to send Eller in on a 2-on-1. The Dane elected to shoot and beat Rask high to the glove side for his first of the season.
The Canadiens got a second power-play goal for a 3-0 lead as Desharnais worked the puck in front and went into the scramble to bang in a goal 12:24 into the second. The power play that laboured early in the season now has four goals in as many games.
An Eller giveaway to Nathan Horton in front of his own net set up Milan Lucic for a blast to the top corner to get Boston on the board at 16:28.
Boston’s only power play chance turned into a two-man advantage, and David Krejci hit their third goalpost of the night.
Rask is 1-6-1 against Montreal in his career.
The Bruins reunited their top line last season with Lucic on left wing with Krejci and Horton and it was their most consistently dangerous.
Notes: Former Canadien Benoit Pouliot did not play because he was sick. . . Montreal scratched defenceman Alexei Emelin.